The pro-agreement campaign framed the issue as progress from the impasse, as a struggle between intolerant bigots without solutions, on the one hand, and moderates with, on the other hand, a constructive path. The agreement was promoted to the nationalist community as an offering of civil rights, inclusive government, recognition of its Irish state and a peaceful path to Irish reunification. For the Unionist community, it has been presented as leniency of problems, the guaranteed end of the paramilitaries and their weapons and the guarantee of the Union for the foreseeable future. There was a massive government-funded campaign for the “yes” vote, with large posters posted across Northern Ireland. Such a poster contained five handwritten pledges of Prime Minister Tony Blair to obtain the “yes” vote of the Unionists, when no wording of these pledges was actually included in the agreement submitted to voters. These “promises” were: 3. The Assembly will exercise full legislative and executive authority over matters that are currently the responsibility of the six northern Ireland ministries, with the possibility of taking responsibility for other matters, as stated elsewhere in this agreement. A number of possible responses to the changing situation [the Hume-Adams process, which led Sinn Fein to follow the political path]… .
I remember a colleague in Parliament saying… We should say no all the time… The important point I make in general is that it is not enough to be passive, to adopt a tactic or an approach that, consciously or intentionally, leaves the decision in the hands of others. This is not always what you want and you never know exactly how it will work.111 The experience in Northern Ireland strongly highlights an important factor highlighted in the literature on conflict resolution, the importance of maturity.108 The mere fact that the parties accepted in 1998 what they had rejected in 1973 suggests that changing circumstances played a decisive role. But this observation is of limited value to the practitioner without a few guidelines for evaluation when the circumstances are “ripe”. While policy makers are often in what they can do to create the conditions that make a conflict ready for a solution,109 it is an important tool in the art of the state to identify a chance when it looms. Equally important is the understanding that a conflict is not ready to be negotiated: it can be said that the premature efforts that led to the Sunningdale Agreement in 1973 did contribute to prolonging the conflict. In addition, the UK government has committed to the creation of a new Legal Commission for Equal Opportunity, which will replace the Fair Employment Commission, the Equal Opportunity Commission (NI), the Commission for Racial Equality (NI) and the Equal Opportunity Council. The creation of the Equal Opportunity Commission was provided for by the Northern Ireland Act (1998).
The Commission was finally established on 1 March 1999 2202″The Good Friday Agreement: Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission”, BBC News, May 2006, consulted on 21 January 2013, www.bbc.co.uk/northernireland/schools/agreement/equality/hr2.shtm… 3″The Good Friday Agreement: Equality Commission for Northern Ireland,” BBC News, May 2006, accessed 21 January 2013, www.bbc.co.uk/northernireland/schools/agreement/equality/equality… (ii) recognize that it is up to the inhabitants of the island of Ireland alone to exercise, by mutual agreement between the two parties and without external hindrance, their right to self-determination on the basis of free and concomitant consent, north and south, if it is their wish to accept that this right must be obtained and exercised with the agreement and approval of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland; Given the transitional provisions of the agreement, it is also important to note that the elections to the Assembly took place in July 1998, well before the adoption of the Northern Ireland Act.